Russia secured a place in the Davis Cup semifinals for the fourth consecutive year after Tomas Berdych retired hurt in the decisive fifth set against Nikolay Davydenko.
|Nikolay Davydenko serves [AFP]|
The win gave Russia an insurmountable 3-1 lead against the Czech Republic ahead of the last singles match in the best-of-five quarterfinal.
Berdych was leading 3-6, 6-2, 7-6 (5), 3-6, 2-1 and facing Davydenko's serve when he fell as he reached for a forehand cross, appearing to twist his right ankle.
"I was feeling really great today,'' said Berdych.
"I had really good confidence but this is just sport. You can't do anything else.''
Davydenko was sympathetic.
"It's such a shame the match finished like that,'' Davydenko said.
Injuries help Russia again
It was the second straight time Russia advanced after an opponent retired with an injury in a decisive match.
Serbia's Novak Djokovich pulled out while leading against Davydenko in the first reverse singles in the first round in February.
Russia and the Czech Republic split the opening singles on Friday, before Russia went 2-1 up by winning Saturday's doubles.
The fourth-ranked Davydenko was in command in the first set, and broke his ninth-ranked opponent in the eighth game.
But Berdych found his rhythm and leveled the match with two breaks in the second set.
He continued to dominate in the third, but Davydenko saved three set points before Berdych served a winner in the tiebreaker.
"I felt I was losing concentration. It was difficult of course,'' said Davydenko, who beat Rafael Nadal to win the Tennis Masters in Key Biscayne, Florida, last weekend and sat out the opening singles.
But the Russian capitalised on Berdych's poor return in the eighth game of the fourth set to break him and stay in the match.
After trading breaks in the decider, Davydenko saved a breakpoint to get to deuce in the fourth game when Berdych fell.
"The clay was bad,'' said Davydenko. "It was always possible to get injured. He must have been tired and couldn't raise his foot, which is maybe why he stumbled.''
Medical staff immediately wrapped Berdych's swollen right ankle in an ice pack before he went to a hospital for scans.
Marat Safin was playing Lukas Dlouhy in the meaningless second reverse singles.
The victory extended Russia's unbeaten streak at home to 16 series since 1995, when Pete Sampras won all three of his matches to lead the United States to victory.
Russia won the Davis Cup in 2002 and 2006, and was runner-up to the United States last year.
The Czech team won its only title in 1980, and was playing in its first quarterfinal since 2002.